The Smarti-project investigates cheaper and better manufacturing processes in space

New research at Luleå University of Technology examines production methods that make the manufacture of components for space vehicles lighter and cheaper. The Smarti project is run in partnership with GKN Aerospace and hopes to deepen the knowledge around additive manufacturing which is predicted to become a leading production process in the future.

Additive manufacturing is a new and promising production process of titanium components, where one form parts and components such as space satellites by using energy from laser welding or electron beams by adding layers on top of layers of powder or wire. This enables the creation of highly advanced geometrical structures, in contrast to conventional manufacturing where you cuts away unwanted material to get the final structure.

Magnus Neikter is a PhD student in the research field of materials technology and is now investigating possible future conditions surrounding the base of additive manufacturing. The research is funded by the RIT-project in order to create a more innovative environment and strengthen research infrastructure in northern Sweden.

– The subject is interesting for the space industry as it enables great reduction of weight. Today it costs about 150,000 SEK per kilogram for a component to be launched into space. NASA has set a target to reduce the cost a hundred times until 2025. The advantage of additive manufacturing is that you can create cavities in details and enable advanced geometric structures that minimize weight. Something that you are not able to do with conventional subtractive manufacturing, said Magnus Neikter.

The manufacturing method is believed to slowly become a production standard in the industrial society. Right now the big question is how to guarantee the quality and repeatability of product manufacturing that is sought after in the aviation and aerospace industry.

– The process is also more environmenfriendly as material waste disappears completely when the powder used if fully exploited, said Magnus Neitker.

Smarti stands for “Associations between additive metal deposition process, microstructure and mechanical properties of Ti-6Al-4V (alloy).

– GKN Aerospace, our partners have been involved in additive manufacturing for a long time, and the goal is to produce components for Arianne rockets. Research-wise, I have just started writing the first research article called Microstructure Characterization of DED and PDB which goes deeper into two different additive manufacturing techniques, said Magnus Neikter, PhD in Materials Engineering.